Like everyone in the St. Hubert community, Carol Snowden was stunned in January 2012 when an Archdiocese of Philadelphia blue ribbon commission recommended the closing of the high school.
For Snowden, that meant the apparent end of her alma mater and the school where she taught for 40-plus years. It was a melancholy time.
“I was wondering where the kids would go and how they would adjust, and if they would feel like fish out of water,” she said.
Also, the school closing meant she wouldn’t experience a certain special moment.
“I kept saying I won’t be a Golden Girl,” she said.
But this story has a happy ending.
St. Hubert appealed the decision, and alumnae and friends raised $1.3 million in six weeks to help the school stay open and keep Snowden in the classroom. That also meant that Snowden and other members of the Class of 1963 would be able to walk up the aisle at the 2013 graduation as 50-year graduates, or “Golden Girls.” Snowden, like other faculty members, wore a black robe, while the rest of the Class of ’63 donned gold robes.
The graduation ceremony was held last Wednesday, June 5, at Holy Family University. Earlier that day, the Golden Girls met for lunch at Cannstatter’s.
The day, Snowden said, capped a tremendous year at the all-girls school at Torresdale and Cottman avenues.
The veteran teacher, 67, recited a bunch of positives from the 2012-13 school year.
Claire Alminde, she said, was a terrific student council president. Teaching colleague and softball coach Dave Schafer led the Bambies to the District 12 Class AAAA championship. Girls seemed interested in class work, even during eighth period. The Bambie ambassadors were great representatives for visiting seventh- and eighth-graders. More than 180 girls are already registered for next year’s freshman class.
“The whole school was different this year,” she said. “I loved being here.”
Snowden has loved being at St. Hubert for 50 years — four as a student and 46 as a teacher.
In fact, the Tacony native — born Carol Pergolino — has loved all her schooling. She studied under the Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Leo Grammar School.
“I learned so much at St. Leo’s,” she said.
Next, she went to St. Hubert. She graduated in a class of 575, and many of the St. Leo grads took part in the Golden Girl activities.
When Snowden was a student at St. Hubert, there were six religious orders of nuns on the faculty. She was a member of the rosary club and played the violin in the orchestra.
Her next stop was Immaculata College, where she graduated in 1967 with a major in history and a minor in education. She considered law school, but decided to pursue a teaching career.
“Where else do you get to meet new people every year, influence them and help them make career choices?” she said.
The Rev. Richard Simons, the principal at St. Hubert, offered her a job making $4,800 a year.
“I was hired on May 30th of 1967, a week before I graduated. I was very excited,” she said.
Once school started in September 1967, Snowden saw Miss Weed, her former gym teacher.
“She said, ‘I need a cheerleading coach. It’s you,’ ” she recalled. “In those days, it was just rah, rah, rah, not standing on top of each other like they do now.”
Over the years, she’s been the moderator for the student newspaper and the forensics club. In 1995, she became chairwoman of the Social Studies Department.
Nothing has slowed her down, not even double knee-replacement surgery in 2011.
Today, she teaches six classes, even though she’s required to teach only four, because of student demand for specific courses. She even has 36 girls in an advanced-placement class meant for 25.
“I can’t in my heart say no,” she said. “I’m willing to do the extra work. I don’t want them to have another study hall.”
Snowden, a Rhawnhurst resident who’ll turn 68 in July, has seen plenty of changes over the years.
Former athletic director Pat Berry, she said, built up the sports program.
Technology, of course, has changed the classroom. All freshmen had iPads this year. Students are permitted to bring in laptop computers. Next year, they’ll be able to have cell phones on their desks.
The teachers union started during her time. The current president, Rita Schwartz, is a former St. Hubert teacher and Snowden’s maid of honor at her wedding.
Snowden takes delight in seeing former students go on to successful professional careers, including many who have returned as teachers.
She also pointed to Maureen Mooney, who captained the Immaculata Mighty Macs to two college basketball championships; Katie McGinty, a current candidate for governor; Fran (Peteraf) Weston, who served as a state representative; and Kathy Ott Lovell, executive director at the Fairmount Park Conservancy and a leader in keeping the school open.
“I can still see her sitting in government class,” Snowden said.
For Snowden, last week’s graduation was another in a long list of cherished moments affiliated with St. Hubert.
“I have so many great memories around here,” she said. “I’m very lucky. I have the best job in the world.”
As for the future, Snowden said she is uncertain when she will retire.
“You have to be ready to retire. I’m not ready,” she said. “What would I do?” ••